Taiwan scrambles air force as Chinese warplanes cross median line

Ten Chinese aircraft flew over the Taiwan Strait’s median line on Sunday as tensions in the region continue to rise.

Chinese bomber
A Chinese H-6 bomber, as seen in this photo from May 2023, was reported to have been sighted by Taiwan on Sunday [Joint Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan/Handout via Reuters]

Taiwan sent up fighters and deployed ships and land-based missile systems to keep watch on Chinese aircraft on Sunday after spotting 10 Chinese warplanes crossing the sensitive median line, which separates the two sides, of the Taiwan Strait.

The island’s defence ministry said four Chinese warships also carried out combat patrols.

This is the second time in less than a week that Taiwan has reported renewed Chinese military activity after 37 Chinese military aircraft flew into the island’s air defence zone, some of which then flew into the western Pacific on Thursday.

China, which views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, has regularly flown its air force into the skies near the island over the past three years. However, they have not entered Taiwan’s territorial air space.

A Taiwan Air Force Mirage 2000-5 aircraft prepares to land at Hsinchu Air Base in Hsinchu, Taiwan April 11, 2023 [Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters]

Twenty-four Chinese aircraft detected by Taiwan

In a short statement, Taiwan’s defence ministry said that as of 2pm (06:00 GMT) on Sunday, it had detected 24 Chinese air force planes, including J-10, J-11, J-16 and Su-30 fighters, as well as H-6 bombers.

It did not specify where the aircraft flew but said 10 had crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which separates the two sides and had previously served as an unofficial barrier, which China does not recognise.

Four Chinese naval ships were also engaged in “joint combat readiness patrols”, the ministry added without giving details.

China’s defence ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It has not commented on Thursday’s flights.

Escalating tensions

China has previously said such missions are to protect the country’s sovereignty and aimed at “collusion” between Taiwan and the United States, the island’s most important international backer and arms seller.

In April, China held war games around Taiwan following a trip to the US by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

Taiwan’s government rejects China’s sovereignty claims and says only the island’s people can decide their future.

China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan, which is gearing up for presidential and parliamentary elections in January, under its control.

In a Sunday video address to supporters on the Taiwan-controlled Matsu Islands close to the Chinese coast, Taiwan’s Vice President William Lai said he would do his best to “stabilise the peaceful status quo in the Taiwan Strait” if he wins the presidency, his campaign office said.

Lai is running as the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s candidate. Tsai cannot run again due to term limits.

Tsai has repeatedly offered talks with China but has been rebuffed as Beijing views her and her party as separatists.

Laura Rosenberger, chair of the American Institute in Taiwan, which manages the unofficial relationship between Washington and Taipei, visited Taiwan last week and met all three presidential candidates.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies